Why do you paint dark things?
People have asked me before about the why, what, who, where, how and huh? of my art. What are your intentions with making art? And especially with your genre of art -the macabre. How can you paint such dark things?
I personally love answering that question. How can you paint such dark things?
"You must be really messed up in the head." Is often the person's own answer before letting me say anything.
While I did not have an easy life, most people also have a tough time. That's life, it's just how it is. I may have had a few harder things to deal with here and there but I also have been extremely loved, so there is balance. Today I am wise enough to see how much love out-weighs the bad.
I do want to point out though, that a lot of my early troubles as a creative being came from this false association with people who are not of "normal" standard. Those who do not dance to the everyday beat and are freaks to be avoided or made fun of. So that's something to work on. The girl with the green hair and spike collar isn't a freak. She's another person just like you, only she experiences life that way because that's who she is. If she is not harmful to herself, you, or others then leave the judgment by the bible and enlighten your mind.
Thankfully more and more people are beginning to see that those who are involved in the darker fields of the arts are human beings too, living lives quite similar. We eat, sleep (sometimes), love, laugh and generally enjoy life and like being alive.
Some of our community has even become bigger, because people are now a little more comfortable discussing their love of horror movies, zombies, vampires or ninja hamster ghouls. Series like the “Walking Dead” definitely opened up a wider audience and made it more acceptable.
Just a short 10yrs ago I was called all manner of hurtful things for liking anything like the aforementioned. Whether it be art, movies or music, it all came with the mean label of freak. Now society knows a bit better, but it is always good to remember that there are reasons for anti-bullying campaigns and support-lines for people who have suffered from aggressive bullying or hateful attacks. I wish I had had that option when I was younger, but I am grateful now that kids who are like me have the support they need. Especially with all that's going on in the world we need love more and more.
The second question I get is: "How long have you been painting dark things? Surely something must have happened to make you change from fluffy bunnies to zombie ladies with their flesh falling off."
There was a period of time where I was just lost, because I felt constantly criticized by my art teachers, my classmates and people at art shows for being too "different", so I painted what I thought people would like. And they did like it, but when I painted what I really loved, people gravitated towards that more, because it was true to who I was as a person.
It has taken me a long time to be comfortable with who I am. Just a few short years ago I was finally able to say: “I'm going to do the art I like and those be damned who are going to give me shit about it." It was an empowering moment, to let go of everyone else’s expectations of my art and just enjoy creating what I love.
If you look at the art world you can see many beloved artists such as Francis Bacon, Jenny Saville, Lucien Freud, Maya Kulenovic,, Cindy Sherman, Hieronymus Bosch, Laurie Lipton, James Ensor, Marlene Dumas, all in the spectrum of dark art, most have been exhibited at galleries and museums throughout the world. Ensor was just recently at the Royal Academy in London. Not to forget the latest price tag of a Bacon painting (*cough* 138million). Dumas and Sherman I have both seen at the Stedelijk Museum in The Netherlands. The fact that these artists continue to be successful brings to point that the macabre plays an important role in the art world because it holds a mirror to society which sparks conversations about what was going on at that period of time. It is a way to remember the not-so-nice times and reflect on them, so as not to repeat them in the future. It is a vehicle of growth and change.
The other question I get is "Doesn't it make you depressed to paint such dark things?"
No. It is a form of release. It's a way of expelling all that I take in from the world, whether good or bad or neutral and transform it into a painting. Its a kind of therapy for me, being able to let go. I can look at the canvas and see what's been bothering me, by seeing a contorted face afraid to come out of the shadows. I can see a woman standing up against monsters, even though she's scared and surrounded by her own demons. I can see love in a shade of purple touching a corner of a dark eye, anger in a flushed red upon a creatures torn cheek. I can create my own world to crawl into, if I need to escape from my real one. It is also my voice, how I communicate with the world around me.
To create art in the macabre spectrum is to be a part of a continuing conversation on the identity of society at particular moments.We see the underbelly of the world, our society and people more clearly, or simply put have a heightened awareness of it. We shine a light on the particular moment in time, so it is not forgotten and our art becomes a road of communication about a subject, which would not normally have a place in contemporary conversation, because of it’s difficult nature.
I hope that macabre artwork will soon find more widespread understanding and loose the stigma of freakishness it has been stuck with, because of its superficially negative appearance. It is the most common mistake of human interaction to judge another and label the unfamiliar as a freak. There is meaning in our art and sometimes it might not be so pleasant, but our willingness to voice these things through the language of our art is deeply rooted in our desire to bring marginalized topics to the surface where they can have a chance for open discussion and bring about positive change.
Artists that depict religion in a harsher tone are doing so, because they may feel hurt by it and want to talk about why some religions treat some people differently. An artist who creates zombies might be trying to spread awareness & positive ideas about death; to stop people from feeling ashamed about a natural part of life. An artist who makes vampires, might be commenting on humanity’s need to feed and consume everything, to the point of killing our planet. When you take the time to really look at what the artist is trying to say, one can see they are talking about subjects which can be hard to discuss, but are increasingly essential to the growth of our global community. Remember the girl who has the green hair and the spiked collar is probably just as concerned as you are about the direction the world is going.
As ever & always love to you.
Do you love dark art? Have any favorite artists? How does art interact with your daily life? Would love to hear from you.